Introduction: Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration refers to a disturbance of the retina which is a light-sensitive membrane that acts as a lining of the inner surface of the backside of the eye. The macula generally refers to the retinas central area that allows for central vision such as driving, reading and recognizing faces. Macular degeneration, therefore, causes a diminished ability to perform these basic daily tasks.
Macular Degeneration Symptoms
Macular degeneration has a number of symptoms. For instance, people with macular degeneration may experience blurring, distortion or dimming of the center of the vision. For people with Macular degeneration, straight objects i.e. the edge of doors may appear bent. Although macular degeneration affects the central vision, in majority of cases, the side or peripheral vision remains clear and normal.
This helps a patient with macular degeneration to be able to see or recognize the outline of a person’s head however they may have difficulties in pointing out any facial features. In severe cases, individuals with macular degeneration may also lose color vision on the affected eye. In many instances, little or no changes may occur in a few years however in other instances there may be slow progressive loss of the central vision.
In rare cases, the patient may experience a sudden loss of the central vision that is caused by leakages from the tiny blood vessels that are under the macular. This kind of macular degeneration is commonly referred to as disciform macular degeneration. With time, the affected areas may heal however this might result in scarring which results in more severe effect on the central vision.
Macular Degeneration Treatment
Before seeking for macular degeneration treatment, and Amsler grid test is done to detect the problem. Color vision tests can also be used to detect any loss of color vision. A fluorescein angiogram is normally carried out to check if they are any leaking blood vessels. The tests identify which type of macular degeneration an individual is suffering from i.e. dry/wet macular degeneration.
Dry Macular Degeneration
There is no known medical treatment for dry Macular Degeneration however eating a healthy diet and avoiding smoking can help to eliminate or slow down the rate of deterioration. Dietary supplements i.e. vitamins E, C and zinc can also help to reduce the rate of visual loss for individuals who are already suffering from selenium and Macular Degeneration. Additional interventions such as the use of better lighting and magnifiers can also help those individuals that have dry macular degeneration make better use of their remaining sight.
Wet Macular Degeneration
Whenever dry Macular degeneration occurs or develops, it is always recommended to seek immediate treatment. The medical interventions/treatments present for wet Macular Degeneration in most cases stop continued visual loss. In some cases, the treatments further show some degree of improvement of sight. There are three main different kinds of treatment for Wet Macular degeneration. The treatment methods all aim at controlling the formation of new leaky blood vessels:
a. Photocoagulation: This is a Macular degeneration treatment method that uses a hot laser beam to seal all the leaking blood vessels. This treatment method is normally used in a minority of the cases where leakages are not directly situated at the center of the macula. The method is a destructive treatment method that causes damage to all the surrounding healthy tissue and blood vessels. The blood vessels, however, grow back after this treatment method which usually necessitates repeated treatments.
b. Photodynamic therapy: This Macular degeneration treatment method uses light-based treatment to seal all the leaking blood vessels that cause macular degeneration. The treatment method starts when a patient is injected by a drug known as verteporfin that circulates in blood vessels in the process coating the inside of all the abnormal blood vessels.
Verteporfin in the blood vessels is then activated by a shining light that coats the blood vessels destroying them. Unlike photocoagulation, photodynamic therapy is not destructive to any surrounding tissues. Repeated treatments may, however, be necessary sometimes. In the recent past, there have been new treatment methods being developed that interfere with macular degeneration. For instance, there are new drugs that target a protein that is involved with a process called; vascular endothelial growth factor. These new treatments have however not been universally accepted as effective treatment methods.
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